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The Exceptional 7

Future Leaders of Our Community

The Rome Floyd Chamber and Advertising Dynamics, Inc., are honored to recognize the third annual winners of the Exceptional 7 awards.

The awards are targeted to honor young professionals who excel in their fields and contribute to the community through volunteerism and advocacy.
Representing a diverse range of professions, these individuals are the future leaders of our community. We look forward to their successes and the impact they have both professionally and personally.

Rachel Dunaway

Teacher, College & Career Academy
Rome City Schools

Rachael Dunaway grew up on her family farm, emphasizing beef cattle production, sheep production, and row cropping. A 2011 graduate of Rome High School, Dunaway continued her education at Berry College, where she was a member of the Berry College Equestrian Team. After two years at Berry, Rachael transferred to the University of Georgia, where she earned a B.S.A. in Animal Science, emphasizing Beef Cattle Production. Continuing her education at the University of Georgia, she earned an M.S. in Animal Science with an emphasis in Meat Science. After graduation, Dunaway worked in the research and development at a processed meat company, where she focused on innovative new food products for restaurants and the fast-food industry. Then, with the encouragement of a colleague, she transitioned into a career in education. She currently serves as the Veterinary Pathway teacher and the Future Farmers of America advisor at Rome High. In 2021, Dunaway was recognized with the Golden Apple Teacher Award. As her career continues, she plans to continue teaching and growing the F.F.A. program at Rome High while expanding her vision of the agriculture program at the school. Dunaway would like to implement facilities for small livestock, aquaponics, and a greenhouse. She would also like to create an urban agriculture program to enable students to connect with the community. Another goal she has is to work in partnership with the Exchange Club to create livestock events for students in the community, such as poultry shows, rabbit shows, and possibly a mini-pig showcase. In addition to her professional duties, Dunaway gives back to the community by serving as a volunteer for several organizations, including the Coosa Valley Fair, P.A.W.S., Floyd County 4-H, and Rome’s Ducks Unlimited Greenwing program. Dunaway is also a member of the Floyd County Cattleman’s Association, Floyd County Farm Bureau, and the Rome Chapter of Ducks Unlimited. A Rome native, she enjoys the beauty of Rome and community events like the Coosa Valley Fair and spending time with friends downtown. Her hobbies include bowfishing, duck hunting, working out, farm responsibilities, and working with the 4-H Lamb show team.

Jake Hager

Executive Director
South Rome Alliance

Jake Hager is a graduate of Berry College. After receiving his degree, he worked for the Georgia Department of Community Affairs in the Community Development Finance and Housing Finance divisions. He then worked for a commercial real estate company overseeing Class A shopping centers’ leasing and property management in Georgia and Florida. At Berry, Jake had fallen in love with Rome, and as his career moved forward, he was excited for the opportunity to return to the area. He currently serves as the Executive Director of South Rome Alliance, where he utilizes his real estate and state government experience and his passion for serving people. As the director, he oversees the revitalization of the South neighborhood, which works in partnership with government agencies, and for-profit and non-profit entities to impact the community through housing, education, and wellness. In the future, Hagar hopes to continue contributing to Rome by addressing challenges faced by non-profits by adapting solutions from the private sector. His goal is to build partnerships to serve the Rome community that will be efficient and impactful. He serves as a board member on the Rome Historic Preservation Commission, the Northwest Georgia Boy Scouts of America, the Heart of the Community, and the Youth Program Chair for the Rome Rotary Club. Hager is an Eagle Scout and a recipient of the Sullivan Award at Berry College, recognizing those with remarkable character and dedication to service. Jake enjoys eating, camping, backpacking, water sports, spending time with friends, and completing minor home repairs in his free time.

Sarah Huffman

Risk Manager
City of Rome

A native Roman, Sarah Huffman is a graduate of Rome High School and Berry College. She earned a master’s degree in Industrial/ Organizational Psychology from Southern New Hampshire University and is pursuing a Master of Public Administration from Jacksonville State University. Huffman currently serves as the Risk Manager for the City of Rome. She oversees the programs regarding employee benefits, workers compensation, vehicle, property, and general liability insurances, employee safety, and employee management. Since taking the helm in her current position, she has received numerous certifications and honors. Certifications include the Society of Human Resources Management Certified Professional and the Associate of Risk Management – Public Entity. Through her leadership, the department was awarded the Large Agency Achievement Award by the Georgia Local Government Personnel Association for the in-house production of updated training videos. Huffman also created and implemented the BRIDGE Academy for city employees to improve their working knowledge regarding other departments and positions. In addition, Huffman serves on the Board of Directors for the Georgia Public Risk Management Association. She plans to continue her education in risk management and public administration. In addition, she aims to continue building and growing the risk management program with the City of Rome to make it a model program throughout the state, southeast region, and even nationally. Huffman is active in the Chamber of Commerce as an alumnus of Leadership Rome XXXI and currently serves as its coordinator. She also participates in the Young Professionals group. In the community, she serves as a board member for The Davies Shelters, Habitat for Humanity Coosa Valley, and the Redmond Occupational Health Advisory Board. Huffman is also a member and current foster parent with the Floyd County Foster Parent Association. She enjoys landscaping and gardening, music, sports, and traveling in her free time. She also likes to spend time downtown supporting businesses and events hosted by the Downtown Development Authority and recreation on the walking/bike trails and kayaking down the Etowah River.

Robert Jones

Director of Development
William S. Davies Shelters

The path back to Rome for 2005 Rome High graduate Robert “Bobby” Jones has been diverse. He attended Georgia College, majoring in Liberal Studies with a minor in Nonprofit Management. After college graduation, he and Chelsea, whom he would later marry, traveled throughout the southeastern United States, working on organic farms. In 2011, they settled in middle Georgia, where they built a successful organic farm named Babe + Sage. As their son, Tripp, was reaching school age; the couple returned to Rome in 2018. At that time, Jones continued his pursuit of a master’s degree in Nonprofit Administration from Louisiana State University – Shreveport, where he graduated in 2020. In 2021, he was named Director of Development at the Davies Shelters, overseeing fundraising, communications, and special projects. He was the first non-programming staff hired in the organization’s 18-year history. Jones has been integral in sharing the shelters’ successes and impact on our community. One of his recent professional achievements was when Davies Shelters was awarded three major federal grants, which he wrote in the fall of 2020. These highly competitive grants are a combined $400,000 federal investment over three years. His goals in the future include positioning Davies Shelters as a driver of innovation in the non-profit sector in Rome. Jones would also like to increase the collaborative efforts among local non-profits to help ensure Rome is a better place for all of our neighbors. He would also like to increase charitable investment from the government and foundations outside Floyd County. Jones is very active in the community. He serves on the board for South Rome Alliance, in a consulting capacity for the Community Foundation for Greater Rome, and the Equal Justice Initiative committee of ONE Community United. In addition, he helped organize local non-profits and community partners to form the Rome Food Oasis to fight against food insecurity. Jones is a member of Georgia Organics, serves as a Den leader for Cub Scout Toop 113, and recently graduated from Leadership Rome XXXIX. Jones is also an active member of First Baptist Church of Rome. In his time away from work, Jones enjoys recreation opportunities in Rome and Floyd County, including bike-friendly routes, hiking trails, and the cool waters of the Pocket and Cave Spring.

Sarah Martin

Brinson Askew Berry

Sarah Martin grew up in Rome and is a graduate of Rome High School and Berry College. At Berry, she graduated with the highest honors with a double major in International Studies with a Business Concentration and Spanish. She continued her education at the University of Alabama School of Law with a full-tuition academic scholarship and received her law degree with honors. Martin practices law at Brinson Askew Berry, where she was named partner in January 2022. In the future, Martin wants to develop in her role as the newest partner at Brinson Askew Berry. In addition, she would like to emphasize the firm’s dedication to serving individuals and businesses throughout Northwest Georgia with high-quality legal representation. Martin has received numerous awards and recognitions. She was recognized by Rome Life Magazine’s 20 Under 40 in 2019. Accolades also include the Hugo L. Black Scholar Award (outstanding scholarship and intellectual achievement in law school), Bench and Bar Legal Honor Society, James E. Smith Award (Best Comment on the Journal of the Legal Profession), Order of the Samaritan (exemplary commitment to leadership and outstanding service to the legal profession), and the Dean’s List Community Service Award. An active community member, Martin serves on the Executive Board of the Junior Service League of Rome and the Heart of the Community Board. She also teaches Business Law as an adjunct instructor for Berry College and recently completed Leadership Rome XXXIX. She enjoys spending time with her husband and two beautiful children in her free time.

Ron Morris, Jr.

Vice-President of Sales
Sledge Tech

Born and raised in Silver Creek, Georgia, Ron Morris has always exhibited an entrepreneurial mindset with the tenacity that leads to success. He graduated from Pepperell High School and attended the Floyd County College and Career Academy. After continuing his education at Georgia Northwestern Technical College and Georgia Highlands, Morris studied in Germany for one year through an externship with the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange program. When he returned to the south, he was ready for business. He is the co-owner of Sledge Tech, a company that focuses on air filtration solutions. The company provides clean indoor air for the working associates of manufacturing industries. Morris also is a co-owner of Cedar and Smoke Cigar in Cedartown with his father. In the future, he plans to continue the growth of Sledge Tech in revenue and the sales force presence, which will allow the company to multiply the customer base and solutions. An active community member, he serves as the Community Service Chair for Rome Floyd County Ducks Unlimited and as a volunteer and team leader for the Alzheimer’s Association. Morris is also a Master Mason of the Lindale Lodge and a member of the advisory board of Rome STEM. When away from his businesses, he enjoys traveling and the walking and bike paths around Rome. Another favorite pastime is taking out-of-town friends to the Rome Braves games and downtown events like the First Friday concerts.

Haley Smith

Director of Diversity and Inclusion

Haley Smith has exhibited remarkable leadership and communication skills from an early age. At 15, she started leading worship at North Point Community Church in Atlanta. As a singer and songwriter, she was signed with a major label in Nashville and shared the stage with notable singers like David Crowder, Laren Daigle, and Jeremy Camp. Smith also began to share her passion for living authentically in community at student camps and conferences throughout the country. She started designing strategies for sustainable community organization and reconciliation during that time. Her career then led her to join the group Orange as the Rural Strategy Director and to co-found the non-profit For Our Neighbors. Both organizations work to create better futures for the next generation. When she relocated to Rome from Atlanta, she established a creative partnership with Austen Earp. It serves as an innovative space to empower the next generation and cultivate their musical gifts. A graduate of Shorter University, Smith currently works at Berry College as their Director of Diversity and Inclusion. She develops and implements supportive programs for underrepresented student populations and is responsible for select scholarship programs and services targeted toward identity, ally, and leadership development. She is active in the Rome Floyd Chamber, where she serves on the Education and Workforce Committee and is an alumnus of Leadership Rome. Her position allows her to speak to different groups about Berry, scholarships, and DEI and equip local non-profit organizations with student volunteers. Smith also devotes time to her passion project Kindred Fire, which volunteers throughout the Rome community at events and fundraisers. Smith also is a board member of PFLAG Rome. In the future, she wants to continue envisioning and implementing programs to increase diversity, equality, and inclusion through sustainable and restorative programs at Berry College. Also, she hopes Berry will be a leader in bringing such programs into the public realm in collaboration with businesses as a service to future generations. In her free time, Smith enjoys playing music, art classes, paddle boarding, walking downtown, and spending time with friends, students, and family.